DeLong and Deltoid on Roger Peilke Jr. "train wreck"
Roger Pielke Jr. has written the most Titanic whine in the history of the climate blogosphere, “Giant Fish, Big Fish and Minnows of the Liberal Blogosphere.” And I do mean Titanic with a capital T.
The woe-is-me post is a substance-free ad hominem attack on Berkeley economist Brad Delong and some of the leading science bloggers, including me. What is so fishy about the whole thing is that it tries to paint Pielke as some sort of innocent victim whose only sin is to have — cue violins — “patiently and persistently built upon an academic record of peer-reviewed research on aspects of the climate that they disagree with.”
In the real world, of course, Pielke routinely tries to drown the reputation of top scientists — including all three thousand attendees of an Al Gore talk at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a coauthor of the recent NOAA-led climate impacts report — with no justification whatsoever (click here or see below).
In this piteous post, Pielke announces, “I have a major book on climate coming out next year that will be in bookstores everywhere.” How disappointing for those of us who thought he was “voluntarily” going into semi-exile when he shut down his popular Prometheus blog and started his obscure but cleverly named “Roger Pielke Jr.’s Blog.”
So let’s set the record straight. Roger Pielke Jr. is the most debunked person in the science blogosphere, possibly the entire Web. Heck, computer scientist Tim Lambert (aka Deltoid) has a whole category just for Roger, which I commend to anyone who still takes the man seriously. Lambert’s latest withering must-read takedown is “Another Pielke train wreck” (reposted by DeLong):
The thing about a Roger Pielke Jr train wreck is that you just can’t look away. Check this one out. Pielke claims that there were 1,264 times as many news stories about a Michael Mann study that suggests that hurricanes are at a 1,000 year high as about a Chris Landsea study that found no increase in hurricanes over the past century. (Mark Morano , of course, links to Pielke’s post.)
The fun is in the comments as folks try to explain to Pielke that there is a film director called Michael Mann and that maybe Pielke shouldn’t count those stories. Pielke comes back with the claim that restricting the search to “Michael Mann” + nature + hurricanes + Aug 13-15 gives 1,412 stories. Some folks might wonder how restricting the search gives you more results, but not Pielke. In fact, if you read what Google says at the link Pielke gave it says that there are “about 20″, and if you look at all the results there are just 11. A similar search for the Landsea paper gives 5 news stories. This difference may be due to one paper being published in Nature and the other in The Journal of Climate.
Update: Soon after I posted this, Pielke finally made a correction, allowing that being out by a couple of orders of magnitude was a “bit sloppy”. Heaven knows how wrong he would have to be before he admitted to being sloppy or very sloppy.
Where there is a “Another train wreck,” you can be sure there is an initial Pielke train wreck and the Pielke train wreck continues. Lambert himself recommends starting with this debunking of RPJ. After DeLong posted an email from someone pointing out that Pielke (Jr) is “dishonest and wrong,” came this must-read email exchange where DeLong questions Pielke’s sanity.
One could publish an entire book of debunked nonsense by RPJ, but it looks like Roger is going to save us the trouble. I have every confidence his collecution of confused contrarianism will be a poor man’s Superfreakonomics, just as “error-riddled” but with only 1% of the sales.
Roger is right less often than a broken clock. He’s like a clock that knows what time it is and then shows the wrong time just to get attention.
Back to the the pity party. Roger writes:
Here is how it works. The really giant fish — public intellectuals like Tom Friedman and Paul Krugman — confer authority on the big fish of the liberal blogosphere. They do so by applauding the work of the big fish and saying that they trust them. This is a useful exchange because the big fish amplify the writings of the giant fish in the blogosphere and do the dirty work of taking down their political opponents by playing some gutter politics that the giant fish would rather not be seen playing. This has the effect of establishing the big fish as people to be listened to, not because they are necessarily right about things, but because the giant fish listen to them and the giant fish set political agendas.
Among these big fish feeding the giant fish are Joe Romm, Brad Delong, RealClimate, and there are of course many others, but these are the ones I have first-hand experience with (lucky me). Each of these professionals has great potential to positively influence policy debates in positive ways. Instead they all actively have chosen to engage in pretty embarrassing and unethical behavior that caters to tribal, echo-chamber politics.
[No, the metaphor and his graphic (which I reprinted above) don’t actually make sense, since the really giant fish don’t actually eat the big fish, but I digress.]
But wait, Roger Dangerfield gets respect from people i
n the blogosphere with more readers than he has all the time, too. Well, one person. The Swift Boat smearer Marc Morano is his Boswell. Sure Morano doesn’t have a Nobel Prize, but he does have a long history of pushing disinformation, just like Roger.
What do I mean when I say that they engage in embarrassing and unethical behavior? For instance, their blog etiquette is simply a disgrace, especially for people who claim to be professional, e.g., they each disallow substantive comments that they disagree with, either from me or from those supporting things that I have said.
A lecture in blog etiquette from Pielke is like a lecture in business ethics from Bernie Madoff.
Pielke has one primary mission in his professional career and on his blog — other than working with his colleagues at The Breakthrough Institute (TBI) to spread disinformation aimed at stopping any serious climate action, of course — and that is to shout down any talk of a link between climate change and extreme weather.
For completeness sake — so there’s one post I and others can link to when pointing out “Roger Pielke Jr. is the most debunked person in the science blogosphere” — let me return once again to the most egregious multiperson smear by Pielke (see Unstaining Al Gore’s good name, Part 1: The NYT’s false “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements” charge began with a false charge by Pielke):
On February 13, Gore gave his talk at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in which he used the slide. The video is here and the slide is at minute 7. You’ll probably end up watching the whole video a few times because you’ll find it hard to believe how Pielke spun a perfectly reasonable presentation into a vicious assault not just on Gore, but on the integrity of the hundreds of scientists in the audience….
On February 15, two days after the talk, our old friend Roger Pielke, Jr, wrote a blog post titled, “Not A Peep from Scientists” in which he quoted the CRED report just as I did and then not only sharply criticized Gore for using that slide to make his argument, not only attacked Gore for supposed “blatantly” misleading the audience with “scientific untruths,” but attacked every single member of the audience for not objecting:
And of all of those scientists in attendance, here is a list of those who sought to set the record straight on blogs and in the media: OK, I couldn’t find any, but if you know of any such reactions, please share in the comments…. But as the non-response to Al Gore’s in-your-face untruths shows, the misrepresentation of climate science for political gain has many willing silent collaborators.
So for Pielke the entire audience of three thousand scientists are “willing silent collaborators” in the “misrepresentation of climate science” because of their supposed “non-response to Al Gore’s in-your-face untruths” shows. But this string of “in-your-face untruths” doesn’t exist. Please listen to the video yourself and try to find them. I challenge any credible person to find them. Remember, we aren’t talking about one or two ambiguous word choices here. You need to find a bunch of blatant in-your-face untruths.
In his speech Gore attributed a wide range of recent weather events to human-caused climate change including floods in Iowa, Hurricane Ike, and the Australian bush fires.
No he doesn’t…. Gore does show a picture of Ike and say
It is the view of many scientists that the intensity of hurricanes is affected by the warming issues.
That is a fact. I interviewed many such scientists for my book. Indeed, that carefully worded sentence should be a strong clue to any listener that Gore understands the science, that he understands the debates over what can and can’t be attributed directly to global warming right now, and is working hard not to make any inaccurate statements. Gore doesn’t attribute the 500-year flood in Iowa to human-caused climate change. He does refer to the “heat that puts more moisture into the atmosphere that causes longer downpours,” but that is such a well-confirmed impact of warming that even the Bush report cited above acknowledges it.
As for bushfires, Gore says the fires have “ignited a nationwide debate that is very much focused on global warming.” That is also a fact. Many Australians who are suffering through a once-in-a-thousand year drought make the climate connection explicitly. For instance, Australia’s climate change minister Penny Wong recently said, “All of this is consistent with climate change, and with what scientists told us would happen” (see “Australia faces collapse as climate change kicks in”). So far the non-response of the audience to Gore’s quite reasonable statements does not seem very shocking at all. They heard what Gore said, not what Pielke claimed he said.
It is quite clear that Gore is not attributing every single extreme event that he shows to climate change — that is clear from his wording. Gore is making a statistical argument that we are seeing more extreme weather events and more intense (i.e. record-breaking) weather events — which is why he has so many “anecdotal” or individual extreme weather event slides — and that “many can be linked to factors that are worsened by human emissions.”
How do I know this is the case Gore is making? Because I went to the page (102) in the book An Inconvenient Truth where Gore has his original figure from Munich Re and other insurers (whose “science experts have made the attribution” of rising extreme events to climate change as Kalee explained to Revkin). Gore writes of ” hurricanes, floods, drought, tornadoes, wildfires,” and says:
Many can be linked to factors that are worsened by global warming.
All this is quite in the mainstream of scientific analysis. And has been for a long time…
And what is even more unbelievable about Pielke’s smear of thousands of AAAS scientists for refusing to speak out when Gore supposedly linked extreme weather events to climate change is that Pielke himself told Nature in 2006:
Clearly since 1970 climate change (i.e., defined as by the IPCC to include all sources of change) has s
haped the disaster loss record.
Yes, that is what Pielke said. You can look it up yourself (see Pielke in Nature: “Clearly, since 1970 climate change … has shaped the disaster loss record”).
Pielke is the uber-denier. He denies everything, including that which he himself has said. After his latest smear, no other word fits him.
In fact, here’s an extended excerpt from the 2006 Nature story, “Insurers’ disaster files suggest climate is culprit” (PDF here):
Insurance companies, acutely aware of the dramatic increase in losses caused by natural disasters in recent decades, have been convinced that global warming is partly to blame. Now their data seem to be persuading scientists, too. At a recent meeting of climate and insurance experts, delegates reached a cautious consensus: climate change is helping to drive the upward trend in catastrophes.
The meeting, held near Munich on 25–26 May, was jointly organized by Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company, and the University of Colorado in Boulder. It brought together climate, atmosphere and weather researchers with economists and insurance experts to discuss what could be behind recent disaster losses, both economic and human….
Delegates seem to have found the record persuasive. Their consensus statement, to be released on 8 June, says there is “evidence that changing patterns of extreme events are drivers for recent increases in global losses”….
“Dissent over the issue is clearly waning,” says Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks department, who co-chaired the workshop with Roger Pielke Jr, director of the University of Colorado’s Center of Science and Technology Policy Research. “Climate change may not be the dominant factor, but it has become clear that a relevant portion of damages can be attributed to global warming.”
Previously sceptical, Pielke says that he is now convinced that at least some of the increased losses can be blamed on climate: “Clearly, since 1970 climate change has shaped the disaster loss record.”
Now in his fishy meltdown post, Roger the not-so-innocent victim of attacks by every serious science blogger, writes:
So why me? Maybe I’m just lucky. But maybe it is because I have patiently and persistently built upon an academic record of peer-reviewed research on aspects of the climate that they disagree with, but cannot touch via conventional academic argumentation. Among the arguments I have made (with colleagues of course)…:
1. There is no greenhouse gas signal in the economic or human toll record of disasters.
I apologize for not warning you in advance to put your head in a vise to prevent explosion.
What you fail to realize is that for Roger “climate change” as defined by the IPCC, “global warming” and a “greenhouse gas signal” are obviously and utterly completely different things. Sort of. In a June blog post, Pielke praises a new article, “Tropical cyclone losses in the USA and the impact of climate change — A trend analysis based on data from a new approach to adjusting storm losses” (subs. req’d), which concludes:
In the period 1971–2005, since the beginning of a trend towards increased intense cyclone activity, losses excluding socio-economic effects show an annual increase of 4% per annum. This increase must therefore be at least due to the impact of natural climate variability but, more likely than not, also due to anthropogenic forcings.
Yes, you read that right.
Pielke says an article that concludes there is a better than 50% chance that human-emissions are contributing to increased losses from hurricanes since 1971 is “a valuable paper.”
But he just asserted that his work (with colleagues, of course) makes the case, “There is no greenhouse gas signal in the economic or human toll record of disasters.” But he himself told Nature ”Clearly since 1970 climate change (i.e., defined as by the IPCC to include all sources of change) has shaped the disaster loss record.” But he smeared the professional reputation of thousands of scientists because they didn’t complain or walk out when Gore perhaps implied a connection betweenclimate change and the disaster loss record.
As I’ve written before (see “Why do deniers like Pielke shout down any talk of a link between climate change and extreme weather?“:
Pielke’s obsession on this point is so extreme that he trashes the reputation of any scientist who even suggests that there is the tiniest link whatsoever between climate change and extreme weather — even though he himself has stated such a link exists. Indeed, he has smeared the integrity of many hundreds of the country’s top scientists for merely sitting through a discussion of the issue that doesn’t meet his extreme form of political correctness
This is why so many people in the science blogosphere block his comments or ignore his diatribes. It is impossible to engage him in debate because he is the Humpty Dumpty of climate policy:
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’
But Humpty Dumpty isn’t the right metaphor. No, when I mentioned to one blogger I was thinking about writing on Pielke’s meltdown, he wrote me “require all comments to uses a fish metaphor.” And that got me thinking.
If Roger calls Krugman a Giant Fish and me a Big Fish and Lambert a Minnow, what fish is Roger? One fish immediately leapt into my mind’s eye — Remoras aka suckerfish or sharksucker. As Wikipedia explains:
The host they attach to for transport gains nothing from the relationship, but also loses little. The remora benefits by using the host as transport and protection and also feeds on materials dropped by the host. There is controversy whether a remora’s diet is primarily leftover fragments, or the feces of the host.
Is that not Roger Pielke, Jr.?
Here’s the best photo I could find on the Web, something to keep in mind whenever you think of Roger: